European mass carmakers worst hit in August
PARIS, Sept 4 ― Monthly car registrations fell again in France and Italy in August with mass brands suffering most as Mediterranean countries bore the brunt of the euro zone debt crisis and its withering effect on consumer demand.
French sales tumbled 11 per cent to 96,115 cars in August, for a 10th monthly decline, the CCFA industry association said.
Italian sales dropped about 20 per cent, Fiat chief executive Sergio Marchionne said, anticipating official data due on Monday.
Spanish car sales rose 3.4 per cent as customers rushed to complete purchases and beat a sales tax rise in September. Analysts said the downtrend would likely resume this month.
"We still do not see any signs of recovery on the horizon," said Flavien Neuvy, head of French auto-industry think tank Cetelem.
The country's main growth drivers are at a standstill, with mass-market carmakers worst hit, Neuvy said. "We are seeing a polarisation of demand, with premium and low-cost brands doing much better."
The mid-market Renault brand saw domestic registrations plummet 30 per cent, even as its low-cost Dacia marque recorded a 21 per cent gain on runaway sales of its no-frills Sandero subcompact and Duster SUV.
PSA Peugeot Citroen's domestic sales fell in step with the local market's 11 per cent drop. Europe's second-largest automaker is cutting more than 10,000 jobs at home as it struggles to stem mounting losses.
Ford, which recently doubled its full-year European loss forecast to $1 billion, saw August sales plunge 17 per cent in France and 22 per cent in Spain.
French annualised sales are down about 20 per cent from their 2010 peak, compared with 35 per cent for Italy and Spain, "indicating the potential for further falls in France", Credit Suisse analyst David Arnold said in a note.
Kia was among lower-cost brands that recorded strong increases, as the South Korean automaker and affiliate Hyundai continued to build on a combined European market share that reached 5.9 per cent in the first half - up 1.2 points year-on-year.
European No.1 Volkswagen also continued to grab business from rivals. Sales by its namesake brand fell 7.4 per cent in France and rose 8.7 per cent in Spain, outperforming both markets.
VW's luxury Audi division delivered gains of 8.4 per cent in France and 9.7 per cent in Spain, as luxury automakers advanced. BMW also rose in both markets.
Fiat brand sales tumbled 34 per cent in France and rose 13 per cent in Spain.
Spain's market increase was the first in seven months, as customers hurried to showrooms ahead of a Sept. 1 increase in value-added tax (sales tax).
Some 10,000 consumers completed purchases they would otherwise have made later, the ANFAC automakers' association said - setting the scene for a challenging environment later this year.
September and October "are going to be a disaster", Spanish car dealers' association Faconauto said. Sales are set for a sharp fall unless automakers discount even more aggressively, a spokesman said. ― Reuters